May 20, 2019

GAMA changes stance towards Bornean orangutan forests

JAKARTA ( - The impact on the peat forests in GAMA Plantation’s palm oil concessions - home to the critically-endangered Bornean orangutan - has changed since the business group, a global palm oil supplier, adopted an NDPE policy in August last year.

This is exemplified by PT GAN, a subsidiary of  GAMA Plantation, which received a sanction last year from the Indonesian forestry authorities (Jun 21) for committing peat violations, among other things, by constructing canals to make way for new palm oil plantations in a peat protection zone.

In the same month (Jun 25), Greenpeace International released a report exposing the special connection between GAMA and Wilmar whose supply chains were still linked to deforestation and peat destruction.

However, GAMA has discontinued its previous peat drainage practices, as shown in the following photos, in the PT GAN concession since at least June last year. Instead, the concession's peat forests are now under a recovery plan encompassing an area more than twice the size of Brussels.

GAMA’s commitment to halting new peat development not only forms part of its legal compliance, but is also a manifestation of the implementation of its NDPE policy which was adopted in collaboration with AidEnvironment following the release of the Greenpeace report.

The Planet Explorer images below, which were analyzed by the spatial team, demonstrate that no new peat drainage practices are underway in the PT GAN concession, meaning that the Bornean orangutan-inhabited peat forests in the concession are not being removed.

Clear message to EU 

One of the key concerns about the EU Delegated Act is that it undermines efforts made by the Indonesian government as well as those linked to NDPE policy implementation, thereby threatening the survival of remaining orangutan-inhabited forests in palm oil concessions.

While it is no longer possible to reforest the orangutan habitat ravaged by deforestation for palm oil development from 2008-2015 to its original condition, the remaining areas home to critically-endangered species in existing palm oil concessions can still be protected. 

Of course, this requires consistent efforts, including saving peat forests which retain good forest cover like those spread within the PT GAN concession, home to the Bornean orangutan, as portrayed in the following photos.

The EU should be supporting such consistent efforts, as encapsulated by this case among others, by collaborating with the Indonesian government, including to establish stricter standards, rather than seeking to phase out the use of palm oil for biofuels.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has expressed measured opposition to the recently-adopted delegated act, conveying his deep disappointment to the EU regarding its move in a joint letter along with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

The EU delegated act will not result in any substantial changes. On the contrary, it will merely lead to an unproductive relationship with Indonesia, which is home to the greatest expanse of Bornean orangutan habitat on earth and the only country in which Sumatran orangutans are found.